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Structural violence theory and the role of justice in the reconciliation process Expository Essay


Introduction

The past decades have been characterised by numerous cases of civil and international conflicts. Some of the countries that were previously engaged in domestic and international conflicts have made substantial progress as a result of effective conflict resolution.

However, incidences of domestic and international conflicts are still evident in the modern society as illustrated by the current civil war in Syria and the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

According to Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall (2011), there are various sources of conflicts. Some of the main sources of conflicts in the modern society relate to global, regional, individual, group, and state factors. To understand conflict, it is important for one to conduct a comprehensive conflict analysis.

Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall (2011) define conflict analysis as the logical process of evaluating the dynamics that lead to occurrence of conflicts. Conflict analysis is conducted by assessing the profile, actors and causes associated with a particular situation.

There are various theories that have been formulated to explain how conflict occurs. One of these theories is the structural violence theory.

The theory advocates for a comprehensive analysis of the various structures that lead to occurrence of conflict. Some of the structures relate to political, social, legal and economic aspects. In summary, conflict analysis seeks to understand the relationship between the various elements that stimulate conflicts.

Conflicts hinder development of long term peace within the society. However, integration of an effective reconciliation process can enhance development of long term peace. This paper is aimed at achieving two main objectives.

One of the objectives include analysing the reasons why structural violence theory advocates for a comprehensive structural analysis. Secondly, the paper evaluates the degree to which reconciliation is important in building long-term peace and the role of justice in the reconciliation process.

Why does the theory of structural violence emphasise the importance of structures in conflict analysis? Is this importance justified?

There are numerous cases of human rights violations which have been documented over the years. Some of the salient features that illustrate the extent to which human rights have been violated include the severe degree of social and economic inequality in the society (Ho 2007).

One of the dimensions of human rights violation includes the structural violation which is evidenced by the prevailing cases of starvation, diseases and poverty in the modern society (Ho 2007).

Dealing with structural violation is very challenging. This arises from the fact that it is not easy to hold a particular person or organisation accountable. Ho (2007) asserts that ‘when you see starving children, diseased bodies and desperate poverty, it is not easy to point fingers’ (p.2). This underscores the importance of integrating structural violence theory in understanding such situation.

John Galtung defined violence to include the destruction of human life which lowers someone’s ability to attain their basic needs (Jacoby 2007). The development of structural violence theory was motivated by Marxist ideas on how power and class results in unequal treatment of individuals. The theory underscores the importance of understanding the underlying structures.

Ho (2007) is of the opinion that institutions and structures are central in the analysis of conflicts. The theory contends that there are various mechanisms within a society that stimulate violence amongst individuals (Humphreys & Campbell 2011).Evaluating structures is fundamental in understanding domestic and international conflicts. This arises from the fact that conflicts are evident at all levels.

Structural violence theory is very effective in that it provides the analyst with an opportunity to develop a holistic understanding of the society. This arises from the fact that it takes into account the interdependent relationships between institutions, individuals, and other organisations.

One of the dimensions of violence that structural theory takes into account is the vertical dimension that is comprised of the social, economic, and political structures.

Humphreys and Campbell (2011) further contends that the political, economic and legal structures implemented by a particular country contribute to unequal access of various basic needs such as healthcare services. For example, cases of healthcare disparities, high rate of homicides and poor urban schooling are some of the indicators of structural violence in the United States.

Other cases that illustrate the prevalence of structural violence include the Darfur, Bosnia, Rwandan and the Sri Lanka conflicts (Clark 2010). Some of the political and economic structures that are evident in the contemporary society include the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade, the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations.

Ramsbotham, Woodhouse & Miall (2011) contend that evaluating the prevailing structures is very important in understanding conflicts. This arises from the fact that most individuals lack autonomy in the process of making decisions. According to Woodhouse and Miaall (2011), individuals’ actions are influenced by diverse relational structures.

By analysing these structures, one is able to understand how various situations of structural violence occur. For example, to understand poverty as one of the dimensions of structural violence, it is important for one to conduct a comprehensive analysis on how the prevailing structures contribute to unequal distribution of resources.

According to Riley (2009), unequal distribution of wealth increases incidences of poverty. A study conducted by the World Institute for Development Economic Research (WIDER) in 2006 revealed that the richest 1% of the individuals own approximately 40% of the total global assets. According to the study, the gap between the rich and the poor is likely to increase in the future.

Furthermore, it is also important to analyze the prevailing political structures and how they hinder equal distribution of resources. Conducting such an analysis can give a clue on the reasons why poverty is very prevalent in some societies.

For example, interactions amongst the political class may result in some individuals receiving more resources compared to others. This results in some areas being deprived of the necessary resources (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse & Miall 2011).

In summary, evaluating the prevailing structures is very important in understanding structural violence. This arises from the fact that it gives insight on the causes of conflicts within the society. Consequently, structural violence theory is very fundamental in analysing conflicts in that it emphasises on the importance of conducting a comprehensive analysis on the relationship between the various structures and agencies.

Analysis on the degree to which reconciliation is important in building long-term peace

Peace if one of the most important aspects in the survival of a society. This arises from the fact that it impacts the nature and the extent to which individuals relate with each other. However, existence of conflicts may hamper such relationships.

The 20th century was characterised by numerous cases of destruction and conflicts as a result of the two World Wars. The outcome of the two wars has led to increment in demand for peace building and reconciliation.

Bar-Siman-Tov (2003) defines peace building to include the various strategies that are designed with the objective of enhancing and developing long-term peace. Peace building strategies are aimed at limiting the recurrence of conflicts.

Alternatively, peace building is defined as the various activities that are undertaken in an effort to understand the causes of conflicts, and to support restoration of interaction amongst individuals. According to Abu-Nimer (2001), the peace building process is comprised of various economic and social activities such as economic reconstruction, promotion of human rights and support for development of democratic institutions.

To build long-term peace, it is important for the parties charged with the responsibility of resolving conflict to incorporate the concept of reconciliation. Bretherton and Balvin (2012) define reconciliation as the process of reinstating broken relationships and learning how to co-exist in a non-violent way despite the radical differences amongst the conflicting parties.

Bretherton and Balvin (2012) asserts that reconciliation is aimed at attaining four main dimensions which include managing contradictions, overcoming polarisation, celebrating the differences amongst the conflicting parties and ending violence. In post war situations, reconciliation is aimed at developing strategies that enhance integration of painful past experiences and nurturing shared value for the future.

Such strategies aid in dealing with the prevailing situation. To be effective in reconciling conflicting parties, it is important for the involved parties to address the prevailing structural injustices. One of the ways through which this can be achieved is by analysing the social, political, economic and legal domains.

To achieve this, reconciliation advocates for integration of various mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms include development of an effective justice system for example tribunals and truth commissions, apologies and institution of communicative history such as memorials.

These mechanisms enhance attainment of long term peace. Bretherton and Balvin (2012) content that ‘reconciliation involves building mutually respective relationships between conflicting parties hence enabling them to work together and resolve the problems that might arise amicably’ (p. 310).

The process of reconciliation is very important in nurturing long term peace. This arises from the fact that it results in transformation of situations of conflicts into peace. One of the ways through which this is attained is by rebuilding trust. Occurrence of conflicts leads to erosion of prevailing social relationships. According to Sen (2010), trust is one of the fundamental elements in rebuilding such relationships.

Moreover, reconciliation is also important in nurturing positive beliefs and attitude towards conflicting parties. This is well illustrated by Sen (2010) who asserts that ‘violence, fear and hatred during incidences of way results in modernisation of old myths and stereotypes with regard to the other party’ (p.25). Reconciliation also enhances healing of traumatic experiences by the parties involved in a conflict.

This is due to the fact that the process contributes to development of a feeling of security amongst the survivors of a conflict. Palmer and Burgess (2012) assert that the reconciliation process enhances healing of emotional and physical wounds. Consequently, the process of reconciliation is an important element in the development of long-term peace.

The role of justice in the reconciliation process

According to Lambourne (2004), justice is one of the most important elements in the peace building process especially in post-conflict situations. Lambourne (2004) further asserts that justice is vital in restoring societies that have previously experienced conflicts such as war.

To improve the success of the reconciliation process, it is essential for the parties charged with the responsibility of resolving conflicts to focus on economic, social and political dimensions of justice. One of the ways through which this can be attained is by integrating transitional justice mechanisms such as formation of the truth and reconciliation commissions.

Such commissions play an important role in stopping the cycle of hatred that if goes unchecked can transcend generations.

For example, the tribunal that was formed in 2004 to promote reconciliation in Cambodia after three decades of the Pol Pot regime was expected to administer justice to the survivors of the brutal regime. Such a mechanism was expected to enhance healing amongst the citizens who suffered trauma (Lambourne 2004).

Secondly, justice enhances the reconciliation process by promoting human rights. One of the ways through which this is achieved is by instituting the rule of law which curbs future occurrence of conflicts. For justice to prevail, the rule of law should be applied indiscriminately to individuals who promote or advocate for violence irrespective of their social, economic or political status.

Other aspects that should be taken into account in order foster reconciliation include development of a comprehensive bill of rights, the constitution and reforming the judicial system. By taking into account the social, economic and legal aspects of justice, the likelihood of the reconciliation process succeeding in enhancing development of long-term peace is increased significantly.

Conclusion

The above analysis underscores the importance of structural violence theory in understanding conflicts. The theory emphasises on the importance of evaluating various structures that may lead to occurrence of conflicts. According to the theory, structural violence may be as a result of legal, political, economic and social structures. Therefore, analysing structures can result to effective conflict resolution.

Additionally, the essay highlights the role of reconciliation in building long-term peace. Reconciliation is cited as one of the key elements that should be taken into account in the development of long-term peace. This arises from the fact that it promotes development of trust and justice amongst conflicting parties.

Reference List

Abu-Nimer, M 2001, Reconciliation, justice and co-existence, Lexington Books, Lanham.

Bar-Siman-Tov, Y 2003, From conflict resolution to reconciliation, Oxford University Press, New York.

Bretherton, D & Balvin, N 2012, Peace psychological in Australia, Springer, New York.

Clark, P 2010, The Gacaca courts, post genocide justice and reconciliation in Rwanda; justice without lawyers, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Ho, K 2007, ‘Structural violence as a human rights violation’, Essex Human Rights Review, vol. 26, no. 2, pp: 1-17.

Humphreys, J & Campbell, J 2011, Family violence and nursing practice, Springer Publication, New York.

Jacoby, T 2007, Understanding conflict and violence: theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches, Routledge, New York.

Lambourne, W 2004, ‘Post conflict peace building: meeting human needs for justice and reconciliation’, Peace, Conflict and Development, vol. 3, no. 4, pp: 1-17.

Palmer, M & Burgess, S 2012, The Wiley-Blackwell companion to religion and social justice, Wiley-Blackwell, Malden.

Sen, V 2010, Trust and conflict; an analysis of the Baku Bae peace movement in Indonesia, Munchen GRIN Verlag, Munchen.

Ramsbotham, O, Miall, H & Woodhouse, T 2011, Contemporary conflict resolution; the prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Riley, G 2009, AQA economics modules 1 and 2 digital textbook, Tutor2U, New York.

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IvyPanda. "Structural violence theory and the role of justice in the reconciliation process." June 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/structural-violence-theory-and-the-role-of-justice-in-the-reconciliation-process/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Structural violence theory and the role of justice in the reconciliation process." June 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/structural-violence-theory-and-the-role-of-justice-in-the-reconciliation-process/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Structural violence theory and the role of justice in the reconciliation process'. 11 June.

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